Relief that, off all sides of this ship, called the Queen of Chilliwack even though it sails nowhere near the land so named, all I see is pristine, untouched, magnificent, majestic, wilderness. It’s possible that the human interference, the ugly clearcuts, exist just beyond these shores, that they haven’t yet destroyed all the wilderness that’s out of view, inching ever closer with their machines to expose tourists to what’s really going on, as has happened to so much of the rest of this province. I’m hoping the wild splendour that I see is more than just a façade. It’s been a long time since I’ve looked at such an entire landscape without thinking “that used to be so beautiful.”
I’m also relieved that the ship survived the rocking and rolling of the ocean swells through the night. I was awakened from my sleeping space, stretched along the floor between a row of seats. The native families on the other side of the seats in front and behind me, their air mattresses suggesting they’re seasoned travelers along this route, remained fast asleep. It was a challenge to stay on my feet as I made my way to the bathroom but, I reasoned, we would surely have been alerted if there were any chance of danger.
The ferry is comfortably uncrowded, which is not the best situation for BC Ferries’ fiscal bottom line, but which meant there was plenty of floor space for all her passengers to curl up in their nests. I believe I’m a minority on this ship, as it should be in these parts, among the descendants of the original inhabitants of this land who were murdered and their land stolen by the European capitalist imperialist class. Strangely, though, it occurs to me in a “what did the Romans ever do for us” kind of way, never were the natives able to traverse the lands so far so quickly as these BC ferries provide! Theirs would have been long, arduous, epic journeys along these rugged inlets, and especially the open ocean stretch known as Cape Caution.
This morning, on the bow, snapping photos from within a pocket of sunlight that was soon to disappear as we sailed towards a massive bank of fog, I spoke with one of the crew. “I assume that boat action last night was normal?” I asked. Quite, she replied. In fact, it’s often worse than that in the winter when powerful winds add to the ocean’s rhythm. I wondered about this job of hers, sailing for days along the rocky, sparsely inhabited coastline. Her shifts require 2 weeks of 12 hours shifts, in between two weeks off and, she claims, she sleeps best when the ship is rocking and rolling. I told her I was scared, but trusted that the staff would have alerted me if there were any need for concern, and fell back to sleep pretending I was in a cradle. A big, powerful, and hopefully benign cradle.
We’re now half an hour away from Bella Bella, says the announcement, passengers are to prepare their identification to show upon disembarking. We were also required to show id in order to board the ship last night. That’s necessary ever since the Queen of the North incident. Crew want to know who’s on the ship at all times in case, heaven forbid, such an incident should happen again.
We’ve been sailing since 9:30 pm. It’s now 8:00 am.
I’m relieved that the world is so much bigger than I can possibly imagine as I go about my daily routine in the small city where I live, dependent on a bicycle or bus to transport me what seem now to be much smaller distances. I’m amazed that I live in relatively closer proximity to such enormous wilderness. If our most important collective work, protecting this last pristine temperate rainforest from the ravages of industrialism, is supported by the energy that this vast wilderness must naturally generate - energy and oxygen that’s essential to maintain the delicate balance of earth’s climate - we’re sure to win. We’ve gotta win. This is just too beautiful.
In port at Bella Bella I asked my trusty computer to search for an internet connection. There are none. Not ‘none’ as in they’re locked and unavailable. None as in none. I am officially off the grid.